I looked at the little girl kicking the back of the seat in front of her, and wondered if her mother really thought it was cute, or if she even noticed her child's bad behavior. The plane had taken off out of Phoenix only a half hour or so behind schedule, but since they had pulled away from the gate 'on time' and sat in the lineup for take off, it didn't count as a late departure. A little girl with thick, auburn ringlets freely falling around her face had been steadily thumping away on the seat directly in front of her for the entire time. Her mother had waved the stewardess over to order a few adult beverages the second the captain turned off the seat belt sign, and right after the stewardess had finished her comedy routine. (Which, of course, had been that thinly disguised comedy act that was actually the FAA-required safety lecture. The one that anyone who'd flown more than twice could recite verbatim complete with the hand gestures and bored expression.) The airplane was completely full so there was no way the passenger being abused could even have shifted seats had they wanted. From my spot at the window directly across the aisle from the victim I wondered exactly how the event was going to turn out. I'd never found pixies to be very kind much less courteous in my dealing with the creatures, and this one didn't look like she was disposed to be in any way in the least forgiving.
The heavily made up mom had just finished her third drink on the short flight and pulled out a small flask from between her ample medically-enhanced cleavage. No human's breasts in their mid-thirties were that high and that huge on that tiny of a frame. I kept thinking I wanted a cantaloupe, which I knew was directly related to the size of those globes on her chest. The content of the plastic container was quickly dumped into the small disposable cup on her tray and the four or five ice cubes tried to keep up with the heat. They failed and soon the soccer mom with her perfectly cut hair had swigged the entire drink, and she had fallen back and begun to snore softly. We'd been airborne for less than a half hour. The little kid kept up the steady drumming of her unicorn-covered tennis shoes on the hard plastic-backed seat to a rhythm of her own making. She was humming irregularly some soppy song that I vaguely recalled being some commercial for sugar-infested cereal.
The pixie had begun to flicker in and out, almost imperceptibly to the human eye but not mine as the incessant beat continued. The flight wasn't long, but I was pretty sure it was long enough to set this creature off. I looked around for the flight attendants who'd naturally magically disappeared -- so it seemed -- and didn't see anyone in pretending to be in charge much less heading up or down the narrow center aisle. I glanced at my watch and calculated the amount of damage an enraged pixie could do on a full flight in fifteen minutes if she didn't wait for us to land. I was really hoping we'd make the airport. Mid-air tragedies weren't easy to survive even for supernatural creatures.
The kid started giggling and wiggling as the snakes appeared slithering towards the child and mother from beneath the pixie's seat. They were long, thin, deadly snakes. And looking at the striping and the order of the red, black and yellow I knew they weren't pretty little pets but deadly coral snakes. Lovely, the pixie finally had enough and was pulling on some strong earth magic. I hated dealing with snakes on a plane. That damn movie hadn't done me any favors. It sure seemed like more and more supernatural creatures were using bad movies for their spell ideas. Who knew a movie that bombed at the box office so quickly would become a cult classic overnight? Not having Samuel L. Jackson on board or even an aged Harrison Ford, playing Jack Ryan in Patriot Games or Air Force One, left me to fix the problem.
So far none of the other passengers had even noticed the live snakes winding and trailing over the little girl and her passed-out mother. My seatmate had long since buried his nose in a thick book, and I don't think he even knew he was on a plane, much less one with dangerous snakes. His glasses were propped up on top of his thinning hair and from how close he held his book I guessed he was really nearsighted and slowly losing his reading vision. Bi-focals in his future, if he survived the flight with a pissed off pixie.
The creature had a vicious little smile on her face and was unaware of my staring. She leaned back into her seat and closed her eyes. I wanted to zap her, but it wasn't totally her fault. She'd just got the wrong seat and pretty much overreacted. I'd have to deal with her eventually. But first I concentrated on the snakes. They weren't protoplasm or even ectoplasm, but live wiggling snakes. And the pixie wasn't a young creature, but at least a century or three old. That made her magic stronger. The first clue had been her popping live snakes into a full plane, the second that they were real and not just mental hallucinations.
That wasn't good, but at least the little girl wasn't afraid. Had she screamed hysterically there would have been no way to stem the problem. That she was calm would work in my favor. Her kicking had stopped as she stroked the cool snakes and giggled at their slithering all over her body. Her mom would have lost her cookies if she woke up and saw that one of the ten inch coral snakes was slipping over her shoulders aiming for the gap in her shirt. Yes, this wasn't going to be easy, but I didn't see much choice.
I carefully reached beneath my light blue cAlbrechtn shirt and pulled out my necklace. The gold chain was thick and nearly unbreakable, with a pendant dropped from the center -- usually I kept it nestled between my breasts against my skin. The gemstone in the middle glowed while I focused on the snakes. A slight drop in the air pressure in the cabin and then it was done. The snakes didn't disappear, but instead changed into inanimate rubber toys. The pixie felt the shift and her eyes snapped open and she began to look around the plane. She quickly found me and looked at the necklace still humming with power. She went dead white and her eyes flashed a deep emerald. I could see she wanted to plead with me her case for unauthorized use of magic around humans, but with the full airplane there was no way for her to do that. A crystal tear trembled on her lower left lash and fell to her lap. It was a diamond before it hit her purple skirt. She clenched her hands and awaited my judgment. I understood the pixie's discomfort at the child's kicks but certain rules had to be maintained.
Some days I truly hated my job.
Normally such a transgression would merit an immediate banishment and loss of powers for a decade or three. But we weren't on the ground and a passenger suddenly disappearing in the middle of a short, full flight would definitely be noticed even by the stupidest of humans. Besides, like I said, I'd had my seat kicked before and knew what a pain it was, so I did have some empathy. But supernatural creatures using deadly magic in human-filled spaces needed to be taught a lesson. Sighing, I quickly decided her fate. The stone glowed black and she fell back unconscious. The diamond on her lap sparkled and looked more alive than she did. I didn't banish her or kill her. I simply rendered her in between the worlds. She couldn't do any magic on either side of the earth. I could have banished her and left a magic construct -- a fake looking image of her -- in the pixie's seat on the plane but that would have meant more paperwork and I'd have been stuck at the airport for hours explaining. The paperwork alone was dreadful, but adding in the forced interviews and lockdown with a committee investigator sent chills down my spine. Instead, I'd have her picked up by a team once we landed.
As if thinking that gave the plane energy, I felt the descent of the craft begin and watched the seat belt light illuminate. The mother roused herself, still drunk, and began to berate the child for the plastic snake on her chest nestled between the fake boobs and scattered over both of their bodies. The little girl babbled about how all of them had been real and then like magic they were all rubber. Her mother growled at her to stop telling stories. The little girl's voice took on the whine of a spoiled child, and she started screaming that she hated her mommy. Looking around for help, the mom saw my face pointed in their direction and snapped, "What's the fuck wrong with you?"
I shrugged and looked out the window. So much was 'wrong' with me -- but at least I wasn't raising a little brat. The mom resumed her blathering at her child and pointedly ignored me. I tuned them both out and waited to be freed from the metal tube. The pixie had begun to list to one side and her eyes were half closed.
The plane finally arrived at the appropriate gate and we began the mass exiting process. Well, everyone except for the pixie. She was still slumped in her seat with a strand of drool now stringing out of her mouth to her lap covering the diamond tear drop. The stewardess had yet to notice the problem. Everyone streamed out like good little lemmings and they were quickly directed to the baggage area. I had brought carry-on only, so I skipped the cattle run. I stepped over to a quiet little area and called the committee and explained the pixie situation. They thanked me and said they had some committee members at the airport, so I was not to worry. I hadn't worried, other than the idea that I'd possibly have to stay around to fill out multiple forms in triplicate, which I was assured I didn't have to do yet. Most of the passengers had already sprinted down to the baggage carousel to wait. I walked out past the crowd into the bright sunlight. My sunglasses had been firmly in place since we'd left Phoenix. They were specially designed to allow very little light in and covered my eyes well. I'd been told that looking into my face when I was wearing my sunglasses made people think I was blind because the glasses were so dark. My eyes weren't exactly normal. So the sunglasses suited me and my eyes. I didn't much care what humans thought.
On the curb where most folks were picked up, I looked for my ride while the planes continued to fly in and out noisily. The line of cab drivers weren't the answer this time. I needed something different. I thought of heading back inside to the car rental counters, but I didn't feel like dealing with that mess. Besides, the committee had been very specific in their instructions to me that I wasn't to cause any problems for the locals; it didn't give me tons of opportunities to change the path I was on, so I shrugged off the impulse to rent a car. What always was easier said than done in the committees' eyes made no difference to them as long as I got the job completed with little damage. I had to follow the orders best way possible. I yanked out the handle on the carry-on piece of luggage and dragged it behind me. The committee wasn't in tune with modern day realities, but that didn't stop them from dictating that we behave in a certain manner. It was frustrating at best and mostly a major nuisance.
I tapped my chin and continued to look around the airport. San Diego was a pretty town, but the airport wasn't designed to give nervous fliers any sort of comfort. As I'd left the building I'd seen that the interior was lined with the standard food court offerings with a few touches reminding travelers that Mexico flavored the local urban landscape. The niches of displayed art pieces were supposed to create a unique feeling, but in all my traveling I'd found most airports pretty much looked the same. Admittedly, San Diego stood out in that their runway was not extremely long and the tall buildings lining nearby streets created the feeling the planes were going to take off the top story of a building if a single miscalculation occurred during the flight, which was kind of cool in my opinion, but scared the hell out of the travelers stuck landing in the airport.
Then I heard a shout from a familiar voice.
"Delilah Monroe, why aren't you a sight for sore eyes!" Ruby Galloway came clacking up in her three-inch pumps -- red, of course -- and with a wiggle in her ass that was attracting the attention of more than one of the tourists, not to mention the various cabbies. She looked like a working girl with a much better wardrobe. She loved the interest of men and dressed to make sure she attracted as many men as possible. At times it was hard to be one of her best friends.
To be continued...